Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A View From Lisa Wingate's Window!

I never cease to be blessed by the authors who I am allowed to meet through my blogging. Lisa Wingate has been such a pleasure to learn about and get to know! Truly, her heart is as big as the state of Texas! (pun intended!) The Lord has really been busy in Lisa's life, and I am so thankful for her testimony and sweet spirit! Please, give a warm welcome to Lisa Wingate!

There is a statement on your website that really spoke to me. When you talk of writing your stories, you state:

“I want to create books that are entertaining, but also good for the soul-- that don't leave readers feeling sad or disappointed, or wishing they hadn't read the book at all. I think we are all called to add something good to the world, to inspire and uplift, to add our colors to the canvas. I have met so many people who have wonderful ways of doing that. I admire them. I want to be like them. I love to write about them.”

This captures a deep desire within my own heart. Can you tell us about a couple of people in your life who encourage and inspire you?

First and foremost, I’m a wife and a mom, so I’d have to say that over the years I’ve been greatly encouraged, inspired, and supported by my family. Some of my favorite pieces of my own writing have been magazine essays inspired by ordinary, everyday moments with my two boys. It’s amazing what profound observations on life you can find while playing in the sandbox, or watching ants carry a grasshopper home, or creating valuable pottery from the gooey stuff at the edge of the driveway.

As a writer, I was greatly influenced by my grandmother, whose life-lesson stories became the basis for my first book, Tending Roses. She was an amazing woman who grew up in a troubled family during the Great Depression. She was appreciative of the things she had, because she knew what it was to have nothing. She liked to lecture us kids about how fortunate we were and how easy we had it. We didn’t always appreciate hearing those things, but she taught us the value of a dime, the importance of an education, and the need for faith. She was also a great storyteller, and from her we learned how to tell a tale and spin a yarn.

I’m fortunate in that my work brings me into contact with people from all walks of life. Oftentimes, after having read one of my books, people are inspired to share from their own lives, either in person or via email. Those stories are a constant reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the power of faith to change lives and heal wounded individuals. For any story you can write, there’s someone who has lived it. Those real stories, and the long-distance friends who take the time to share them are a constant source of inspiration.

You also state that many of your stories are inspired by a real-life moment. What was that moment for Word Gets Around? Were you satisfied/surprised with the direction the characters of this book took your story?

Word Gets Around was inspired by a turkey commercial. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound very profound, but part of writing is having the sort of mind that looks for both humor and clarity in the absolutely ridiculous. I have come to believe that God works through turkey commercials, too, although I confess that when Pilgrim’s Pride came to my hometown to film an advertisement starring camera-ready fowl and local folks, no inner voices whispered, Hey! Here’s a potential book idea! But, you never know. As camera crews and spotlights took over our normally-quiet little berg, everyone wanted to get in on the act. Suddenly, potential fame was only a spoonful of warmed-over production potatoes away. For a few days, the turkey commercial, and who was in it, where it was filmed, who was asked to read for a speaking part, and who might make the final cut, were the talk of the town.

Somewhere along the way, it occurred to me that a Hollywood production company coming to small town and turning everyday life completely upside down would be a fun subject for a book. This just goes to show that you never know where life’s gold nuggets really are. Sometimes, they’re hidden underneath airbrushed turkey and cold mashed potatoes.

The first time “our” turkey commercial aired on TV, I watched as friends and neighbors gathered around a table to eat perfect-looking food, which I knew was cold and tasteless. I admired their ability to seem convincing while uttering such profound lines as “Mmmm”, and “From our house to yours!” Something deeper came to me as the camera panned away from the ideal family - who really aren’t related at all. Sometimes, our lives come pretty close to perfect, and we’re so busy worrying about the cold mashed potatoes, we never even notice. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the details that you forget to look around the table and see the things that really matter.

In the end, the TV debut of my little hometown made me appreciate it in a new and different way. I live in place that can star in a turkey commercial. If that isn’t something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is. So, I guess you’d have to say the advertisement did what it was meant to do. After all, it was a Thanksgiving ad.

The fear and disbelief in Justin’s life that seem to fuel his destructive choices is an unfortunate and devastating reality in many people’s lives today. Do you think Christians could/should exercise a bit more of the “resistance free training” shown by the character Lauren? Especially toward those who have become enslaved to their own addictions?

I think as Christians we’re called to be more like the horse whisperer and less like the horse breaker in all of our dealings with others, but there’s a reason why, you’ll sometimes find more horse breakers than horse whispers. Horse breaking is quick. It uses the tools force, intimidation, and fear to bring the animal into line. It puts the horse breaker in the power position, since he’s the one controlling the whip, spurs, and bridle. The problem is that this produces an animal that will always need to be controlled with intimidation and force. Ultimately, you can’t force someone out of sin—whether the sin is substance abuse, a bad habit, a destructive relationship. Sometimes, you can achieve results for a while, but the behavior change doesn’t last because it’s not intrinsic.

Horse whispering, by contrast, seeks to cause the animal to learn that the safest place, the best place to be is in partnership with the teacher. It requires patience, time, self-restraint, and faith in the biological hard-wiring of the animal. It’s not always satisfying in the moment. It seeks to build a bond of trust, to win the animal over. There’s no way to predict how long that process will take. Each animal is different, as is each person, and each self-destructive choice.

I love the gem of wisdom on page 287 that says, “Sometimes God puts a new path under your feet, not because you think you’re ready to walk it, but because He knows that’s the way you need to go.” Can you share one of those paths from your own life with your readers? What did you discover on the journey?

In many ways, my life has been a series of paths that weren’t part of my plan. I think that’s probably true for most people. I definitely didn’t plan to move around a lot as a child. I was a shy apron-strings kid who preferred the comfort of familiar people to the challenge of having to make new friends. I hated the process of settling in new places, but in the end, those moves left me with memories of some very wonderful places and people, including one of my first grade teachers, Mrs. Krackhardt, who told me I would be a writer one day and made me believe it. If not for an unexpected family move, I would never have been a newcomer in her class, she would never have read my story, and I wouldn’t have grown up thinking I could be a writer. That was definitely one of the paths I was meant to walk, and I know that God put me together with this very inspiring teacher for a reason. Prior to that move, I’d been in a private school with a teacher who was critical, old-fashioned, and strict. I hated reading, and I would never have written anything for a teacher to see. Mrs. Krackhardt changed the way I felt about reading, writing, and myself. In the end, the path through her classroom changed everything.

Will your readers get to know more about Lauren and Nate in future books? Will we ever know what becomes of Justin and his kid’s ranch project? A sneak peek at your next project?

The fun part of writing (and reading) stories in a continuing series, is that there’s always the opportunity to keep up with old friends and find out how their lives have changed. Daily is like most small towns—everyone knows everyone’s business, so of course Lauren, Nate, Justin, Amber, and the ranch come up in the next book, which I’m just finishing now. Book number three in the Daily, Texas series will be released in February, 2009. The story stars an out-of-town character and Lauren’s adorable brother, Kemp (the local baseball coach) this time, as well as Donetta. When the beauty shop girls head to the coast for that cruise they’ve been talking about, well…let’s just say there’s a little problem they didn’t plan on. Hurricane Gloria is headed across the Gulf, and she’s made a turn straight for their port. The girls get an adventure, all right, but it’s nothing like the one they’d planned.

What exciting things is God doing in your life right now? Do you have words of encouragement for your readers?

God is always surprising me in and through the books, for one thing. Writing is, in and of itself, a solitary profession. You spend your days making things up, talking to imaginary people, sitting around with a laptop, and creating stories you hope someone will enjoy. What moves that process into the realm of the amazing is the ways God can take those stories and use them in the lives of people you’ll never meet, except through a book. I can’t even explain the feeling of hearing from a reader saying, This changed my life, it make me think, it made me appreciate what I have, it helped me to realize I need to mend old wounds in my family, it gave me patience as I cared for my aging mother, it brought my sister and I closer together…

Watching the stories travel out into the world is an incredible adventure. The only thing I can liken it to is sending your child out into the world and watching God use this person you’ve raised to make a difference. I teach Sunday school for high school seniors, so each year, I have a bit of this experience in real life, and we’re approaching the time of year when it will happen again. Most of the kids come in at the first of the year not knowing where they want to go after high school, afraid to leave home, not sure what’s right for them, and uncertain of how their spiritual gifts can be used in the world outside youth group. It’s amazing to watch God work in them and grow them, then send them out into the world and bring them back as adults who become youth leaders, musicians, charity workers, and volunteers who lead homeless missions. It’s proof (if we need proof) that, as Donetta’s mirror says at the DAILY HAIR AND BODY, God uses all things for great purposes!

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